By Liana B. Baker
SUN VALLEY, Idaho (Reuters) - The relationship between Google Inc and Apple Inc has improved over the past year with the rival technology companies and sometimes partners conducting "lots and lots" of meetings, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt said.
Schmidt did not provide details about the nature of the meetings during comments to reporters at the annual Allen and Co media conference in Sun Valley, Idaho on Thursday. He noted that Google Chief Business Officer Nikesh Arora, who joined him at the press briefing, was leading many of the discussions.
The two companies are in "constant business discussions on a long list of issues," Schmidt said.
Schmidt once sat on Apple's board of directors, but the relationship between the two companies has frayed as competition has increased. Apple created the smartphone market with its iconic iPhone, but Google's Android mobile software is now featured on three of every four smartphones sold globally.
Apple has sought to lessen its reliance on Google's online services, most famously in 2012 when it dumped Google's Maps product in favor of its own mapping software. Apple's maps service however proved to be ridden with errors, and Google ended up updating its map application for the latest version of Apple's iPhone.
The world's No.1 Internet search company, Google has moved to extend its reach into new markets in recent years, acquiring mobile phone maker Motorola Mobility, offering high-speed Internet service in a few U.S. cities and developing wearable computers and technology for self-driving cars.
Schmidt said that Google's self-driving automobile technology was years, rather than decades away from commercial availability but that "the exact way in which it all plays out is not obvious to me."
"The technology has to be right. The regulation has to be right. The partnerships have to be right," he said, noting that Google has talked to "every single car company."
(With additional reporting by Alexei Oreskovic in San Francisco; Editing by Stephen Coates)